City gets grant for water plant

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A recent $15 million initiative offered by the Department of Local Affairs for the improvement of water and wastewater facilities in counties impacted by energy exploration has resulted in a $500,000 grant for the city of Craig.

City manager Jim Ferree applied for the grant in mid-December, and the city was awarded the money in early January to use for the city's proposed water plant expansion project.

DOLA received 56 applications for the grant money from the 17 counties that qualify under the energy impact guidelines.

The $8 million water plant expansion project broke ground three weeks ago. Completion is expected by the summer of 2008.

DOLA awarded the city a $1 million grant in early 2006 and an additional $6 million will be financed through a low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Resource Power Development Authority. The loan will be repaid over 20 years.

The balance is made up by water fund reserves built up over the past several years to reduce the city's debt service, Ferree said.

The 18-month project, when completed, will take the 6 million gallons per day water facility to a 10 to 11 million gallons per day facility.

Public works director Bill Earley said the reason for uncertain production numbers is due to requirements set by the government that are frequently changing.

"As environmental standards tighten, we can't always produce the same amount of water while staying in compliance," he said. "The existing plant was designed to handle 20,000 people, but changes in what is in compliance has lowered the capacity of the plant."

Earley said the upgrade and expansion to the water plant includes the rebuilding of four filters that have been in use for more than 20 years.

During low-demand periods in the winter, the old water plant located next door to the expansion project will be brought back on-line to treat the city's water while work progresses on the expansion project. The old plant will supply Craig's water for about six weeks in mid-March and for six to eight months this fall and winter 2008.

By the summer of 2007 and 2008, the main water plant will need to be on-line to meet public demand, city officials said. At that time, the exterior buildings for the project will be constructed.

Upgrades to the plant include replacing the current clarifier system with a modern, dissolved-air-flotation system.

The city recently raised water rates 10 cents on each 1,000 gallons used by water consumers.

Monthly fees inside the city limits were raised a dollar and, outside the city corporate limits, monthly fees were increased by two dollars.

The new water plant should be completed and on-line by May 2008.

Ferree said the expansion of the water plant is expected to meet the growth needs of the city for the next 25 years, at current growth rate predictions.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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